» Archive for the 'Content Management' Category

When Too Much Knowledge Becomes a Dangerous Thing

Thursday, June 17th, 2010 by Jonathan Spira

Socrates was relentless in his pursuit of knowledge and truth and this eventually led to his death   In The Apology, Plato writes that Socrates believed that the public discussion of important issues was necessary for a life to be of value.  “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Danger, Professor Robinson?

In the olden days, before the Web, someone wishing to leak secret government documents would adopt a code name (think “Deep Throat” of the Watergate era) and covertly contact a journalist.  The reporter would then publish the information if, in the view of the reporter, editor, and publisher, it did not cross certain lines, such as placing the lives of covert CIA agents in danger.

Enter WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks, founded in 2006, describes itself as “a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public.”

The site was founded to support “principled leaking of information.”  A classic example of an individual following this line or reasoning, namely that leaking classified information is necessary for the greater good, is that of Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, thereby exposing the U.S. government’s attempts to deceive the U.S. public about the Vietnam War.  The decision by the New York Times to publish the Pentagon Papers is credited with shortening the war and saving thousands of lives.

Time magazine wrote that WikiLeaks, located in Sweden, where laws protect anonymity, “… could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

On the other hand, the U.S. government considers WikiLeaks to be a potential threat to security.  In a document eventually published on the WikiLeaks site, the Army Counterintelligence Center wrote that WikiLeaks “represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security (OPSEC), and information security (INFOSEC) threat to the US Army.”  The document also states that “the identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the WikiLeaks.org web site.”

Ten days ago, Wired magazine reported that U.S. officials had arrested Spc. Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old army intelligence analyst who reportedly leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents and records as well as classified U.S. combat videos to WikiLeaks.

Although WikiLeaks confidentiality has never been breached, Manning reportedly bragged about his exploits, resulting in his apprehension.

According to Wired, Manning took credit for leaking the classified video of a helicopter air strike in Baghdad that also claimed the lives of several civilian bystanders.  The previously-referenced Army Counterintelligence Center document also reportedly came from Manning.

The case of Manning is perhaps the tip of the iceberg.  Several million people in the U.S. hold security clearances and, while their motives may vary from clear (e.g. trying to end a war as in the case of Ellsberg) to unclear (e.g. Manning), the genie is clearly out of the bottle.

Socrates, a social and moral critic, preferred dying for his beliefs rather than to recant them.  Indeed, Plato referred to Socrates as the “gadfly” of the state.  The motives of today’s leakers may not be as virtuous as Socrates’ but today’s technology virtually ensures that a secret may not remain a secret for very long.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Microsoft Office 2010 Co-Authoring

Thursday, February 25th, 2010 by Cody Burke

The latest buzzword in document creation is collaborative work.

Who will pop in next?

Who will drop in next?

While there exist various approaches to support collaborative work and varying definitions of what the term means, they all revolve around tools that allow knowledge workers to work together on documents.

Indeed, collaborating in the creation of a document can take different forms.  With cloud-based solutions such as Google Docs or Zoho Writer, collaboration means sharing, i.e. the document is distributed via a link in an e-mail message as opposed to sending along an attachment.  Since only one reviewer at a time can open the document, the annoying document version conflicts that plague workers in the information age are eliminated.

Working together on documents is nothing new, but the processes that are most prevalent are also very inefficient.  Indeed, a majority of knowledge workers send documents as e-mail attachments to multiple reviewers, which then causes version confusion, difficulties in incorporating edits, and missed edits and comments.  A remarkable 20% of knowledge workers say they print out hard copies to send to coworkers.

A different approach to solving this vexing problem is to allow knowledge workers to work on a document at the same time from different locations, be they in a real-time collaborative work session or simply working on the same document independently of one another.

In the forthcoming Office 2010 suite (currently in beta), Microsoft has added Co-authoring to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote.  The new feature requires SharePoint Server 2010 to link the applications and store documents.  Co-authoring allows people to work on a document concurrently, so that one person could be working on introductory text while a subject matter expert fills in details on charts.  Areas that are being accessed for edits are locked to prevent conflicts; the locking is possible on multiple levels including sentences, paragraphs, objects, textboxes, fields, headers and footers.

When entering a document, the user is alerted to other authors who are working on the document via a notification box on the bottom of the screen.  By hovering over the box, the authors who are working on the document at that time are displayed, with contact information so that communication by phone, instant message, or e-mail can be initiated with a click.

If an author is working on a section, it is locked to prevent simultaneous edits by others and changes and additions are only shown to other authors when the document is saved.  If changes have been made to the document, bubble notifications appear to show other users what edits have been made and who made the changes.

People expect the knowledge economy to run on twenty-first century time, which means that knowledge workers need immediate feedback on documents from multiple collaborators at once.   Microsoft’s Co-authoring functionality has the potential to support faster movement of information while improving what today is a grossly inefficient and error-prone process.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Alfresco 3.2 Records Management

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Cody Burke

The sheer volume of content that is generated by an organization in this day and age is nothing short of staggering.

Now where is that file?

Now where is that file?

Even more daunting is the task of managing that information for compliance and record keeping. The records that an organization must keep clearly qualify as content, and in today’s volatile economy and regulatory climate, records management functionality in an Enterprise Content Management system is not simply a nice-to-have capability, but a necessity.

To meet the need for managing the lifecycle of content and information, Alfresco recently announced version 3.2 of its ECM solution. Significantly new in the release is a records management module, Alfresco RM, as well as some advanced e-mail archiving functionality.

The Records Management module meets the Department of Defense (DoD) 5015.2 certification and it is thus far the only open source solution to achieve this. The RM module enables administrators to set up storage policies that manage the retention of data so that records that are no longer needed for compliance may be deleted or archived. The module also defines rules for moving content, so that the most current versions of records are kept in easily accessible storage locations, such as faster drives, while archived material is stored on slower drives. This not only keeps records organized, but also speeds up the process of accessing the content.

As an integrated component of Alfresco ECM, the RM module uses the same single repository as the rest of the suite. The module also features support for complex transfers, role-based permissions, legal holds, and saved searches to speed up searching for content.

The new e-mail archiving functionality in Alfresco 3.2 leverages new IMAP support, which allows users to access content via an e-mail folder in any IMAP client. Through the folder, content can be added into the central repository by drag-and-drop. The new functionality also supports the ability to configure attachment handling, such as pulling out attachments from e-mail and archiving them, or keeping them embedded in the e-mail.

The ability to manage records and integrate tightly with e-mail clients for archiving adds to Alfresco ECM’s appeal as a solution for organizations that need to manage content and ensure compliance. Managers seeking an integrated approach would do well to consider this solution.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Apple’s iPad: Is This the Year of the Tablet?

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 by David Goldes

Apple made its second foray into the keyboardless computer industry yesterday with the launch of the iPad.

Is this the year of the tablet?

Is it the year of the tablet yet, dear?

Similar devices have been around since the GRiDPad was introduced in 1989, although the GRiDPad tipped the scales at slightly over 2 kg.  Apple itself began selling the Newton as a PDA in 1996 but its handwriting recognition software and short battery life hampered its success. Microsoft’s Windows-based Tablet PC has enjoyed a modicum of success but it is mostly used by professionals such as nurses and insurance adjustors who are on the go for much of their day.

In addition, early tablets lacked today’s high-speed wireless networking capabilities as well as Internet content, which today are both more than plentiful.

With the iPad, Apple hopes to leverage the iPhone’s success and create a new category of gadgets.  The iPad supports Web browsing, e-mail, videos, music (it essentially has a built-in iPod), eBooks, as well as applications designed especially for the device.  It will also support almost all of the 140,000 applications in the Apple App Store.  The iPad uses a Multi-Touch interface and a large virtual keyboard (it can also be used with a traditional keyboard). It comes with a 9.7″ LED backlit display that provides a 178° viewing angle.  The machine will be supplied with either 16, 32, or 64 GB of flash storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and, on higher priced models, the ability to connect to 3G networks.

Although there was much speculation about potential partners for the 3G connectivity, Apple will continue (for now at least) to rely on AT&T’s 3G network for the iPad in the United States, despite the many complaints iPhone users have had about their AT&T 3G service.

Apple’s iPad comes at a time where there are full-functioned netbooks on the market for under $300 – and these have a real keyboard.  Granted, they lack Apple’s vaunted UI but just how many portable devices do most people really need?  Apple is betting on customers going for a superior user experience and greater Net usage [the iPad uses flash memory and that gets expensive (the 64 GB model is $699].

Where the real impact may lie is in book, newspaper, and magazine publishing. Amazon offers the Kindle, a black-and-white eBook reader, that is the leader in what is essentially a small, niche market.  Amazon has been trying to branch out with an App Store-like offering but the superior (color) interface of Apple’s iPad could put it in the lead.

Publishers are looking to Apple to create a new model that will let them advertise and monetize their content.  Taking a different path from Amazon’s, Apple is allowing book publishers set their own prices (Amazon sets Kindle pricing).  Companies such as the New York Times and game-maker Gameloft are developing iPad-specific apps.

Still many questions remain.  Will the iPad reinvent traditional media?  Will consumers want to carry yet another device (the iPad is not a phone)?   Stock analysts are bullish on Apple and the iPad.  The company’s stock rose 1.5% yesterday to $208.99 and some analysts are predicting a high of as much as $285 over the coming 12 months.

The Document Management Conundrum

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

How we create, write, and edit individual documents (for the purposes of this essay, a document is something that comes out of a word processing application such as Microsoft Word, Open Office, or WordPerfect) typically reflects the writer’s individual style.

doc mgmt paper mountain

How much is too much?

By this I do not mean how the actual words on the page are written, but rather how we manipulate and edit the text after the initial draft is created.

This may sound simple but that’s decidedly not the case. The way that we edit and refine a document does not just affect the author. Our work has become increasingly collaborative; documents are often touched by multiple knowledge workers, so the manner in which changes and edits are made has a ripple effect on everyone who is part of the process.

It seems as if every knowledge worker has a slightly different way of managing this aspect of the document creation process. Some print out the document and mark it up by hand; others use features built-into the word processing software; and still others have developed their own protocols for indicating changes, additions, and comments.

To find out more about people’s individual styles and preferences, we created a brief survey, which you can access by clicking here.

Participants will receive an Executive Summary of the survey’s findings and can also enter a drawing to win a $200 gift card from American Express. After you complete the survey, please share the survey link (www.basex.com/docs) with colleagues or forums where knowledge workers congregate; the more people participating in the survey, the better we will all understand how to manage documents more efficiently.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

A New Measure of Information Overload – In Feet

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

It was right in front of me but I never noticed it until an in-depth conversation with a very well-informed CEO of a major auto maker earlier this week: how to measure Information Overload in a meaningful way.

How much information received today, dear?

How much information received today, dear?

“We send our dealerships,” the CEO told me, “about a foot or so of information every day.  There’s no way anyone can digest all of it.”  How did he measure this? The company printed out every piece of paper that goes out to the many dealerships around the country and that’s how high the average stack was.

This reminded me of an experiment the EDP (electronic data processing) manager, Dave Stemmer, tried at the company where my father was CEO, probably around 25 years ago (when IT departments were still called EDP departments).  He noticed that the department printed out dozens and dozens of reports a day (and the reports were on the green striped computer paper in binders) and wondered how many were actually being read.  So he stopped printing the reports and waited for the phone to ring with someone requesting them.  Apparently only 10% of the reports were re-requested so the waste in computer time (when this was a valuable commodity) and paper was huge.

Stemmer’s experiment, while less focused at the problem of Information Overload, does demonstrate man’s proclivity in creating too much information (or written versions of that information) that will go unused.

In the case of our auto maker, the amount of information was a wake-up call and the company is not only looking to reduce the amount of information sent to its dealerships but also looking to find ways of making that information more useful and relevant.

We know from our research here that the cost of Information Overload is great and that the actions of individual knowledge workers in terms of what they send to colleagues and correspondents can exacerbate an already bad situation.  Looking at it from a “how much does our organization send out en masse to individuals and partners” perspective is another way of trying to get not only a fix on the costs but also a good way of finding ways in which a few feet of Information Overload can be eliminated.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Dow Jones Companies & Executives Sales

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Cody Burke

In an age of ubiquitous social networking tools and near exponential content creation, rapidly rising levels of information that may or may not be relevant to a particular individual inhibit one’s ability to keep track of contacts, key industry news, and business intelligence.

Dow Jones Companies & Executives Sales

The ideal situation would be for sales and business development professionals to be presented with current and accurate information as it is needed.  Prior to a sales meeting, having a summary of a company’s and industry’s recent news automatically delivered would prepare the sales executive and increase the likelihood of successful conclusion.  This requires tools that automatically surface relevant information.  In addition to the time saved from eliminating manual searching, this type of system solves a fundamental problem that exists with searching for information: one has to know what is being looked for as well as how to use traditional search tools effectively.  Often, the most valuable information is that which is unexpected, for instance a surprise executive position change at a company that opens up the possibility for new business.

We wrote about these dynamics in great detail in our report, Searching for a Connection: Leveraging Enterprise Contacts with Social Software.  In that report, we discussed the acquisition of Generate, a business intelligence company, by Dow Jones, as well as various issues relating to the value of up-to-date information, the limitations of search technology, and what could be done to improve search in the enterprise.

Dow Jones has since incorporated Generate’s technology into the company’s business to business sales and marketing intelligence offering, Dow Jones Companies and Executives Sales.  The latest version of the offering makes some impressive strides towards delivering relevant information in a contextual and timely manner.  Users can set up triggers such as executive changes, product announcements, venture funding, and partnerships, which when detected result in an alert that includes company profile information, relevant executives and contacts, current news, and related documents.  The information itself comes from unstructured news content, Dow Jones’ owned and licensed content that includes company and executive profiles and records, CRM contact and account information, and personal contact lists imported from Outlook or LinkedIn.

Once a trigger event occurs, the system presents contacts that are weighted for relevancy to enable the user to follow up leads that are exposed by the trigger event.  A contact from LinkedIn, for example, is weighed highly because it is presumed to be a personal contact.  This enables sales and business development professionals to find the shortest connection path to a prospect or contact via their work history, CRM system, and personal contact lists.

Dow Jones Companies and Executives Sales is a significant step towards presenting useful information as it is needed without requiring extraneous effort, and will help to surface critical information that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.  It is great starting platform with great potential for exciting features and functionality, and we are eager to see how it develops

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: DotNetNuke

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Finding a content management system that fits your needs is far from simple.

DotNetNuke's Marketplace

DotNetNuke's Marketplace

Indeed, as content creation skyrockets and organizations increasingly need to offer robust Web sites and portals for both internal and external use, the options become dizzying.  The ability to customize and develop channels such as Web sites, intranets, and community portals is increasingly attractive and necessary in a competitive market, no matter what business a company is in.

An offering that provides those kinds of customization options is DotNetNuke, a versatile open source development platform.  The DotNetNuke project, and eventually the company, evolved out of a modified version of Microsoft’s IBuySpy Portal that was released in early 2002 under a liberal end-user license agreement allowing modification.  By late 2002, Shaun Walker, who would go on to found DotNetNuke, released his own modified version that added features and sparked an active and vibrant open source developer community.  The project was renamed DotNetNuke in February 2003 and DotNetNuke Corp. was incorporated in September 2006.

DotNetNuke is an open source content management and application development framework for the Microsoft .Net software framework.  Like other commercial open source vendors, DotNetNuke has grown up around a specific product, in this case the .Net software framework.  The company offers a free Community Edition, and sells Premium and Elite Editions that include expanded features sets and support options.  At its core, the platform is designed to enable users to build Web sites that are customizable through use of open source modules and skins (basic reusable HTML files for graphical presentation that have placeholders for content) that the company provides via its online marketplace.

The platform includes modules for login, announcements, blogs, chat, events, FAQs, feedback, forms and lists, forums, help, newsfeeds, reports, search, site logs, surveys, users and roles, and wikis.  From there, users can customize the system by using modules and skins that an active community of developers and partners maintain.  A visit to www.snowcovered.com (which was recently acquired by DotNetNuke and replaces the company’s own marketplace), reveals a thriving ecosystem of third party modules and skins offering everything from event calendar and registration, video gallery, and document library modules and an expansive selection of skins for tweaking the look of a Web site.

When considering commercial open source solutions, the number of active developers and community members is reflective of the health of the project. What is attractive about DotNetNuke is the large and thriving ecosystem that, when paired with the modular approach the company takes with the platform, gives organizations the ability to set up sites and have a wide range of options for customizing them for their specific needs. This makes DotNetNuke a platform that will end up on more and more organizations’ short lists.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Change Afoot in the Content Management Space

Thursday, October 1st, 2009 by David Goldes

Content management systems are taking on increasing importance in organizations of all sizes.

The content management market is seeing dramatic change thanks to new open source and commercial open source entries that are making significant inroads with customers. In addition, just to make things a bit more complex, companies need to prepare to manage multiple forms of content including wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, social networks, podcasts, and video.

This in turn has significantly changed the process of selecting a content management solution, a process that was never exactly straightforward as it requires both an in-depth understanding of both the organization’s needs and what the market has to offer.

Consider that companies that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for content management systems might do equally well with platforms that cost one-tenth that amount.

Content management is no longer a nice-to-have tool; given the critical role of content (in all of its forms) in the enterprise, CM platforms have now been accorded the status of essential IT infrastructure.  That’s why one sees names such as EMC, IBM, and Oracle in the space.

Basex estimates that the U.S. market for content management was $4.1 billion in 2008 and will reach $10 billion by 2014.  Open source content management is gaining traction in some circles and the overall open source software market is growing rapidly.

The increase in our reliance on content and the amount of content that is being created in the enterprise makes it even more critical that companies manage content effectively in order to avoid the problem of Information Overload.

To help companies navigate the space, Basex just released The Definitive Guide to Today’s Content Management Systems and Vendors, a 150-page report series.  The report series looks at 32 key content management vendors and 43 platforms and provides in-depth analysis — including market trends, drivers, and barriers — to guide decision makers in the selection process.

The good news is that companies today can find a wide range of content management systems at varying price points.  The bad news is that selecting the RIGHT platform is more critical than ever to a company’s future and most companies don’t have the resources to thoroughly investigate their options.  Managers have to understand the total cost of ownership, support options and functionality when making that decision.

The report series is being published on a subscription basis and includes an in-depth industry survey, Content Management Systems: The New Math for Selecting Your Platform, and 16 Vendor Profiles of key content management providers and their offerings.

The vendor profiles provide a comprehensive analysis of content management offerings from Autonomy, Acquia, Alfresco, Bluenog, Day Software, EMC, EpiServer CMS, FatWire, Hippo, IBM, Microsoft, MindTouch, Nuxeo, Oracle, Open Text and Xerox.

You can purchase the report at a special introductory price from the Basex Web site.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

In the Briefing Room: eDev inteGreat

Thursday, October 1st, 2009 by Jonathan Spira and Cody Burke

Many people think of software development as lone programmers working in isolation, perhaps reminded of Douglas Coupland’s 1995 classic Microserfs, where programmers slide flat foods, such as “Kraft singles, Premium Plus Crackers, Pop-Tarts, grape leathers, and Freeze Pops” under the door of a fellow coder after they hadn’t seen him in days.  In reality, the process of software development is a collaboration-intensive activity that would benefit greatly from improved knowledge management technology and thinking, much in the way knowledge sharing and collaboration happen between workers in far less technical occupations.  Unfortunately, many managers fail to realize the necessity of actively managing knowledge and facilitating collaboration in this area.

Companies typically spend vast amounts of time and money to document their requirements and it is far from easy to keep such documentation up to date.  At the same time, they struggle to find ways to interrelate information, given that such information comes from diversified sources.  In other words, how does one create a document that leverages information that is anywhere and everywhere and still be able to make sense out of it?

One company that provides a tool in this area is eDev Technologies via the company’s inteGreat offering.  The product is a requirements management solution that allows for the creation and reuse of requirements through the development of a central body of knowledge, which the company refers to as iBoK (Integrated Body of Knowledge).  This knowledge base is a collection of reusable requirements.  InteGreat allows developers to create requirements using a drag-and-drop interface and then relate them to one another to aid in reuse.

Requirements are then visually mapped out as process flows using MS Visio, and are saved either as inteGreat files or exported as Visio files.  Users also have the ability to create mockups using an included simulation tool.  Once a process is created, generated documents are exported via MS Word, Excel, or Visio, or saved within inteGreat.

As in any form of knowledge work, the recreation of content, in this case requirements, is a huge and costly problem, and is essentially a problem of finding things and avoiding recreating that which already exists.  If the knowledge worker can not find information, be it a document or a requirement, they will have to recreate it, increasing project costs, squandering limited resources, and impacting an organization’s bottom line.  The end result of enabling the reuse of requirements is that, for future projects, there will be a reduction in the time and cost of gathering requirements, as well as lessening the burden of maintaining software.

In inteGreat, the ability to reuse requirements once they are developed adds a much needed knowledge management aspect to the development of requirements, affording software developers the same KM capabilities that other knowledge workers now take for granted.  In turn, as more companies adopt similar solutions, they will see increases in efficiency and a reduction in the time spent recreating requirements.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.
Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.